CHICAGO –– If Bears’ running back David Montgomery had any jitters before taking the field for his first NFL game, you certainly wouldn’t have noticed. On a night when many of the team’s presumed Week 1 starters were either inactive or quickly pulled, it was the rookie back who kept fans in their seats at Soldier Field.
Montgomery scored the Bears only touchdown of the game on a seven-yard scamper in the 2nd quarter. The run was designed to go up the middle, but when the gaps weren’t there, he quickly bounced left, shed a tackler, and slipped through two more defenders on his way into the end zone.
On his first night in a real NFL jersey, Montgomery finished with 16 rushing yards on three attempts along with three receptions for 30 yards. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but the pass-catching, good vision, and quick feet that many in Bourbonnais have raved about for the last two weeks were once again on display.
“I was just enjoying the moment, and living in the moment” he said after the Bears’ 23-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers. “And you understand that every opportunity, you have to take it seriously. Just take everything seriously. But for me, it’s just about going out there and having fun.”
Whether it’s head coach Matt Nagy or running backs coach Charles London, those who watch Montgomery every day have marveled at the approach he brings to each meeting and practice. A determined reserve is all well and good, but the ever-growing tape of him patiently waiting for gaps to open or shedding multiple tacklers has been the real eye opener so far.
"He runs hard. He runs really, really hard," head coach Matt Nagy said. "He runs violent. He's angry when he runs, and he's tough to bring down with that first defender, so we like that. And you can see what he can do in the pass game as well - made some nice catches and runs after the catch.
"He wanted more. That kid won't stop."
Nagy admitted that he didn't see Montgomery's touchdown, instead only hearing the bench and crowd react as he was dialing up the next play. That didn't stop him from putting his arm around the rookie when he returned to the sideline, though, and letting Montgomery know how impressed he was. Nagy wasn't alone in that, either.
“Yeah, I was super impressed with him,” added quarterback Chase Daniel. “Just his calmness in the huddle. He wasn’t really anxious, he didn’t seem nervous -- maybe he was inside -- but that’s always good to see from a running back. It’s fun to watch him play. It’s fun to watch him make these cuts, especially on the touchdown, and go out there. He’s in his natural element playing football, he’s a football player. So it’s fun to watch.”
As if that weren’t enough, Montgomery’s first game ended on a high note when, on special teams, he crossed the entire field to catch Panthers’ punt-returner Terry Godwin -- who had nothing but green grass between him and the end zone -- and push him out of bounds.
“If I’m on special teams, and that’s the job they want me to do, then that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “If I were to let him score, I wouldn’t be doing my job, so I’m not one for not doing my job. I just handle my business.”